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Scientists recently discovered a rare and important hagfish fossil that includes traces of preserved slime dating to 100 million years ago.
Eyeless, jawless hagfish — still around today — are bizarre, eel-like, carrion-eating fishes that lick the flesh off dead animals using their spiky tongue-like structures. But their most well-known feature is the sticky slime that they expel for protection.
Snake - Suburb - Number - Hitchhikers
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Hagfish fossils are scarce, and this specimen — an "unequivocal fossil hagfish" — is exceptionally detailed with lots of soft tissue preserved, scientists reported in a study published online today (Jan. 21) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Fossil - Dates - Period - Years - Inches
The fossil dates to the late Cretaceous period (145.5 million to 65 million years ago), and measures 12 inches (31 centimeters) in length. Researchers dubbed it Tethymyxine tapirostrum: Tethymyxine comes from "Tethys" (referencing the Tethys Sea) and the Latinized Greek word "myxnios," which means "slimy fish." Tapirostrom translates as "snout of a tapir," and refers to the fish's elongated nose, the study authors wrote.
"A swimming sausage"
Years - Trace - Fossils - Bodies - Skeletons
Hagfish have been around for about 500 million years, yet there is next to no trace of them as fossils, primarily because their long, sinuous bodies lack hard skeletons, said lead study author Tetsuto Miyashita, a postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago.
"Basically, it's like a swimming sausage," Miyashita told Live Science. "It's a bag of skin with a lot of muscles in it. They don't have any bones or hard teeth inside them, so it's really difficult for them to get preserved into the fossil record."
Tethymyxine - Tapirostrum - Fish - Slab - Period
Tethymyxine tapirostrum is a 100-million-year-old, 12-inch-long fish embedded in a slab of Cretaceous period limestone from Lebanon, and is believed to be the first detailed fossil of a...
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